With the move up to the ninth floor of the flagship store, Saks Fifth Avenue’s new home department is a destination chock-full of giftables, books and even some items that you can’t fit inside a box. Yes, you can now order furniture for your home decorating needs. There are seven shop-in-shops from Mrs. John L. Strong, Rizzoli, Baccarat, Michael Aram, Jay Strongwater, MacKenzie-Childs, and Lillian August. We asked Eric Jennings Saks’ Vice President and fashion director for men’s, home and gifts to give us a tour of the newly minted floor.
SaksPOV: What brought about the decision to revamp the home floor?
Eric Jennings: When we decided to move the home floor up a level, I thought we have a very modern woman shopping in the store. She’s buying aggressive heels and advanced fashion. We felt there was an opportunity to bring in a more modern element to our home and gift area.
SaksPOV: Let’s start with the legendary Mrs. John L. Strong.
E.J.: With everything becoming uber digitalized and electronic, people are reverting back to the written word. Stationary and penmanship have become very important again. Everything is made by hand in New York, from the paper to the ink to the dyes to the tissue, which is all put in by hand.
SaksPOV: So you’ve got writing down, and reading too!
E.J.: Yes, our Rizzoli shop is wonderful! Rizzoli is a publishing house for art books, decorative books, and fashion books, basically great coffee table books. They are another New York institution. They’ve helped us curate books specifically geared towards the Saks customer. We’ll have the authors come once a month and do a reading. Fans of the author, or photographer, will be able to come and get their books signed.
SaksPOV: This next room is just beautiful. A Baccarat shop!
E.J.: Baccarat launched a new shop concept in Paris and in Japan. This is the first shop in the US with the new concept. It’s about lighting fixtures, chandeliers, and sconces. This company is 250 years old and they’ve reinvented themselves recently by doing collaborations with more modern artists, such as Marcel Wanders. They are great giftable and decorative items in addition to the lighting. Baccarat is 28% lead, which gives the crystal clarity and a good weight for drinking. Many of the pieces will have the red signature in it made with 24 karat gold. It’s all made from hand outside of Paris.
SaksPOV: And then a modernists’ favorite: Michael Aram…
E.J.: This shop was created to emulate his store in Chelsea with the black brick and black carpet. Most of his designs are inspired by nature, from fruits to vegetables, leaves or trees. There’s even a five-foot tall dandelion.
SaksPOV: Tell us about Jay Strongwater.
E.J.: We have a customer who loves and collects these items. Jay calls it jewelry for your home. He actually started as a jewelry designer and then got into the decorative home items. It’s all designed in New York.
SaksPOV: Enter the quirky and colorful MacKenzie-Childs!
E.J.: We brought in about two years ago and it’s become one of our most popular home destinations here in the store. This season was inspired by the outdoors and gardening. You’ll see wicker furniture in vibrant hues and bird feeders. The Courtly Check is their iconic check. They actually came in and I think it took them two weeks to hand paint their walls. The courtly check looks like a basic black and white check, but it’s got eight different colors in it. It’s whimsical and colorful. People use these in their second homes in the country.
SaksPOV: Look at that lovely furniture!
E.J.: We have not done decorative home and real furniture like couches and textiles in a while. We felt there was an opportunity to find the right partner that can offer this. Our New York store Genereal Manager, Suzy Johnson mentioned the Lillian August store in Connecticut. When I walked into their Flatiron location, I was blown away by how beautiful it is.
We’ll continue to curate different stories throughout the year like mini pop-up shops each quarter. They will also offer their design expertise, so we can actually help people with their interior design needs. A lot of this will be special order and you can see different variations online. This is very exciting because it is a comprehensive opportunity to decorate your home at Saks.
SaksPOV: What’s on the horizon?
E.J.: Yes, this is our incubator, our testing ground. We will be doing a partnership with Sony music on limited edition items. Bringing in a chocolatier from Pennsylvania, Edward Marc. We’ll actually be pairing Michael Aram bowls with Edward Marc chocolates. And we’re also working with a florist Herve Gambs to add in some softer elements. There will be a little something for everybody.